Thanks to the cost-cutting moves employed over the summer by GM Jay Feaster, the Calgary Flames enter this season with some much-needed cap space.
The recent trade that shipped center Daymond Langkow to Phoenix for right winger Lee Stempniak left the club with a little more than $3.6 million in available payroll.
As Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun observed, that number will increase if left winger Niklas Hagman, who struggled through a 27-point performance in 2010-11, fails to impress at training camp. If he gets demoted to the American League, it will clear another $3 million off the ledger.
Sun columnist Steve MacFarlane suggested the extra cap space will allow the Flames GM to make a pitch for any other big name who might pop up on the trade block in the coming months.
It remains to be seen whether Feaster can pull something like that off. He did have interest in center Brad Richards earlier this summer, highlighting his club's glaring need for a top center to complement star right winger Jarome Iginla.
If Feaster does pursue a first-line center he'll likely make that move in the second half of the season, when salaries for such talent, especially ones in the final season of a contract, are easier to absorb.
THE LATEST ON FOUR BIG RFAs
With training camps now less than two weeks away, there's still little to report regarding contract talks for L.A. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty and Boston Bruins left winger Brad Marchand.
The Los Angeles Times reported the long lull in negotiations between the Kings and the Doughty camp recently ended, with the club offering Doughty several options to consider, including what are believed to be deals between six and eight years in length.
GM Dean Lombardi claimed talks remain amicable and that he expected to hear back from Doughty's agent soon. He wouldn't specify how much money he's offered the young blueliner, but it's believed Doughty will become the highest-paid player on the team. Center Anze Kopitar, with an average cap hit of $6.8 million per season, currently holds that honor.
As for Marchand, his agent recently told ESPN.com there was nothing to report at this time, while Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli declined comment.
Two other notable blueliners remain unsigned as restricted free agents, Toronto's Luke Schenn and Winnipeg's Zach Bogosian. Of late there's been no news on their status from the hockey-mad media in both cities.
Expect that to change with training camps opening soon, though.
While the possibility any of these players being traded is slim, speculation over contract holdouts will increase if they haven't re-signed in a week's time.
MATTHIAS WANTS ONE-WAY CONTRACT
The Florida Panthers are also having some difficulty getting a restricted free agent under contract; in this case, center Shawn Matthias.
Panthers assistant GM Mike Santos recently told George Richards of the Miami Herald the problem was Matthias and his agent “can't wrap their heads around” the fact Florida won’t offer a one-way contract and pointed out Matthias will be competing with Ryan Carter, Tim Kennedy and Evgeny Dadonov for a roster spot.
Richards believes Matthias has little leverage here and has no choice but to accept the deal. He could demand a trade, but his market value is low and he would have a difficult time finding another club willing to sign him to a one-way deal.
STEVE STAIOS SEEKS WORK
Among the handful of unsigned UFAs still searching for work is former Oilers and Flames defenseman Steve Staios.
His agent, Pat Morris, recently told the Edmonton Journal the 38-year-old still wants to play this season.
Morris believes Staios would help a young team such as the New York Islanders or Colorado Avalanche, both of which sit just barely above the salary cap floor of $48.3 million.
It's believed the Islanders are willing to extend a training camp invitation to UFA blueliner Bryan McCabe, while the Avalanche appear intent to go to camp with their current defense corps and evaluate it accordingly.
At this point, Staios will have to hope for a training camp invitation and try to parlay it into a one-year contract.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.